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Richard Cravatts

The Ivory Tower’s Nazification of Israel

by Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, November 16, 2014






“What if the Jews themselves were Nazis?,” mused French philosopher, Vladimir Jankélévitch in 1986. “That would be great. We would no longer have to feel sorry for them; they would have deserved what they got.”


The recasting of Israelis, and, by extension, Jews as Nazis has, in fact, taken place, just as Jankélévitch envisioned. This summer’s Israeli incursion, Operation Protective Edge, provided anti-Semites and loathers of the Jewish state with resurgent justifications for assigning the epithet of Nazi on the Jews yet another time, together with oft-heard accusations of “crimes against humanity, “massacres,” genocide,” and, according to recent comments by Turkey’s prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, in their treatment of the Palestinians, Israel has demonstrated that “. . . their barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s.”


The Nazification of Israelis—and by extension Jews—is both breathtaking in its moral inversion and cruel in the way it makes the actual victims of the Third Reich’s horrors a modern-day reincarnation of that same barbarity. It is, in the words of Boston University’s Richard Landes, “moral sadism,” a salient example of Holocaust inversion that is at once ahistorical, disingenuous, and grotesque in its moral and factual inaccuracy.


In reflecting on the current trend he perceived in the burgeoning of anti-Israelism around the world, Canadian Member of Parliament, Irwin Cotler, once observed that conventional strains of anti-Semitism had been masked, so that those who directed enmity towards Jews were now able to transfer that opprobrium to the Jew of nations, Israel. How had they effected that? According to Cotler, they did so by redefining Israel as the most glaring example of those human predations, what he called “the embodiment of all evil” of the Twentieth Century: apartheid and Nazism. He defined the process of grafting this opprobrium on Israel as “ideological anti-Semitism,” one which “involves the characterization of Israel not only as an apartheid state—and one that must be dismantled as part of the struggle against racism—but as a Nazi one.”


Most important for the anti-Israel cause, Cotler contended, once Israel had been tarred with the libels of racism and Nazism, the Jewish state had been made an international outlaw, a pariah, losing its moral right to even exist—exactly, of course, what its foes have consistently sought. “These very labels of Zionism and Israel as ‘racist, apartheid and Nazi’ supply the criminal indictment,” said Cotler. “No further debate is required. The conviction that this triple racism warrants the dismantling of Israel as a moral obligation has been secured. For who would deny that a ‘racist, apartheid, Nazi’ state should not have any right to exist today?”


What is more troubling is that the characterization of the Israeli as Nazi is a trope now promulgated by Western elites and so-called intellectuals, including a broad contingent of academics who are complicit in, and in fact intellectual enablers of, the campaign to defame Israel by Nazifying its people and accusing Jews again as being the world’s moral and existential enemies as demonstrated by their oppression and brutality toward the long-suffering Palestinians. Thus, campus anti-Israel hate-fests sponsored by radical student groups have such repellant names as “Holocaust in the Holy Land,” “Israel: The Politics of Genocide,” or “Israel: The Fourth Reich,” creating a clear, though mendacious, linkage between Nazism and Zionism. 


One of the early academic voices to have assigned the Nazi epithet to Israel was heard in a November 2000 speech by Francis A. Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois and one of the principal promoters of the global Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In that speech, Boyle made the exact linkage to which Cotler alluded, conflating Israel’s alleged racism with apartheid-like behavior and suggesting, even more ominously, that the ongoing “genocide” against the Palestinians had parallels with the Nazi’s own heinous offenses. “The paradigmatic example of a crime against humanity is what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish People,” Boyle said. “This is where the concept of crime against humanity was formulated and came from. And this is what the U.N. Human Rights Commission is now saying that Israel is doing to the Palestinian People. A crime against humanity.”


That same trope is repeated and reinforced by other academics, such as Richard Falk, professor emeritus of International Law and Policy at Princeton University and the UN’s former, preposterously-titled “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,” who wondered aloud if it was “an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity?” on the part of Israel, and then quickly answered his own question by saying, “I think not.”


In the morally-defective pantheon of the academic defamers of Israel, perhaps no single individual has emerged as the paradigmatic libeler, the most vitriolic and widely-followed character in an inglorious retinue as Norman Finkelstein, late of DePaul University. Finkelstein has loudly and notoriously pronounced his extreme views on the Middle East, not to mention his loathing of what he has called the Holocaust “industry,” something he has called an “outright extortion racket;” in fact, he blames Jews themselves for anti-Semitism.


Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, has pure political intentions and passively yearns for truces and safe borders, according to Mr. Finkelstein, while the invidious state of Israel, fearing moderate Arab foes who will force it into peace, is obdurate, conniving, and bellicose. In fact, Finkelstein suggested, Israel is collectively going mad, while everyone else in the rational world yearns for Middle Eastern peace:I think Israel, as a number of commentators pointed out, is becoming an insane state. . . In the first week of the massacres, there were reports in the Israeli press that Israel did not want to put all its ground forces in Gaza because it was preparing attacks on Iran. Then there were reports it was planning attacks on Lebanon. It is a lunatic state.”


If Finkelstein lives in an academic net

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